LEIGH, Sir Francis I (c.1579-1625), of Westminster, Apps Court, Surr. and King's Newnham, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. c.1579,1 1st s. of Sir William Leigh (admon. 21 May 1628) of King’s Newnham by Frances, da. of Sir James Harington† of Exton, Rutland.2 educ. M. Temple 1597.3 m. (1) 9 June 1597, Mary (d. 3 Apr. 1612), da. of Sir Thomas Egerton†, 1st Visct. Brackley, 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da. (2 d.v.p.);4 (2) 31 July 1617,5 Susanna (d. c. Feb. 1623), da. and coh. of Edward Norden of Mistley, Essex, wid. of Paul Bayning (d. 1 Oct. 1616) of Little Bentley, Essex and London, alderman and Grocer, s.p.;6 (3) Margaret (admon. 25 May 1648), da. and coh. of Sir John Brocket† of Brocket Hall, Herts., former w. of Sir John Cutts† of Childerley, Cambs. (mar. annulled) and wid. of Roger Dale (d. 15 Dec. 1623) of Tixover, Rutland, s.p.7 KB 25 July 1603.8 d. 1 Aug. 1625.9
Member, Soc. of Antiq. by 1599.10
Commr. sewers, Mdx. 1604-6, 1611, Westminster 1611,11 subsidy, Surr. 1608, Warws. 1621-2, 1624,12 swans, Home Counties 1609, annoyances, Surr. 1611, Mdx. 1613,13 freeman, Leicester 1614,14 j.p. Warws. 1617-d.,15 sheriff 1618-19.16
Gent. of privy chamber (extraordinary), Prince Henry’s Household c.1610-12.17
Member, Virg. Co. 1610-at least 1612.18
Leigh’s grandfather, Sir Thomas, a wealthy London merchant who served as lord mayor in 1558-9, acquired extensive lands in Warwickshire in the mid-sixteenth century. His second son, who established a seat at Stoneleigh, was the ancestor of Sir Thomas Leigh, 2nd bt*. His youngest son, Leigh’s father, settled at King’s Newnham, and by 1608 this branch of the family owned more than 21,000 acres in the east of the county.19 Although Leigh apparently owed his Commons’ seat at Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in 1597 to his mother’s connections, his career was effectively launched by his marriage earlier that year to a daughter of the lord keeper, Sir Thomas Egerton. Within months he settled in Westminster, and in 1602 acquired his own country seat at Apps Court, near the royal palace of Oatlands.20 In the 1601 parliamentary elections, he was returned at Oxford on the nomination of his father-in-law, the city’s high steward. By now he was also a member of the Society of Antiquaries, and wrote several tracts on heraldry and chivalry.21
Made a knight of the Bath at the start of James I’s reign, Leigh again represented Oxford in the 1604 Parliament. He appears not to have participated in debates, and in the first couple of sessions he received only two committee nominations, concerned with church attendance (27 June 1604) and repairs to a road near his Surrey estates (2 Apr. 1606).22 He is slightly more visible in the records of the third session. On 24 Nov. 1606 he was nominated to attend a meeting with the Lords about the Instrument of the Union, while on 18 May 1607 he was appointed to help draft a petition to the king requesting tougher implementation of the recusancy laws. Along with several fellow members of the Society of Antiquaries, he was named on 25 Nov. 1606 to the committee to scrutinize a bill ‘for the better continuance of the fame and memory of noble and worthy persons deceased’. He was also appointed to the committee stages of two estate bills, one dealing with lands in Warwickshire, the other with the property of the 5th earl of Derby, whose widow was now married to Leigh’s father-in-law (15 Dec. 1606, 3 June 1607).23 When Parliament reconvened in February 1610 Leigh was added to the committee for privileges, despite his meagre track-record. His nominations to committees to examine the naturalization bills for two Scots, Sir George Ramsey and Henry Gibb (21 Apr., 15 June), probably reflect a burgeoning association with the Court which was shortly to manifest itself in Leigh’s appointment to Prince Henry’s Household. Of his six other legislative committees, one concerned the controversial Commons-sponsored bill to strip Sir Stephen Procter of his knighthood (15 June).24
Although Leigh’s best prospect for advancement at Court ended with Prince Henry’s premature death in 1612, the continuing prominence of his father-in-law, now lord chancellor Ellesmere, ensured that he still benefited from government patronage. In the 1614 parliamentary elections, Leigh obtained a seat at Leicester through the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir Thomas Parry*.25 Again named to the committee for privileges (8 Apr.), he was appointed six days later to the conference with the Lords about the Palatine marriage settlement, and on 5 May to the committee to prepare for a conference on impositions. He was also nominated to the committee to consider a petition to the king about baronets (23 May).26 The eight legislative committees to which he was named covered a wide range of topics, including reform of the Court of Wards and the naturalization of two more Scots (14 and 18 May).27
In 1618 Leigh arranged the marriage of his eldest son (Sir Francis Leigh, 1st bt.*) to a niece of the royal favourite, the marquess of Buckingham, but this new connection scarcely compensated for the death of his principal patron, Lord Ellesmere, in the previous year. The lord chancellor’s demise apparently prompted him to settle in Warwickshire again, where he was added to the local bench, and in 1618-19 served as sheriff. Even though his father was still living, Leigh seems to have held the legal title to much of his patrimony as early as 1608, probably under the terms of his first marriage settlement, the details of which are lost. It was therefore as one of the county’s principal landowners that in November 1621 he was chosen knight of the shire at the by-election caused by Sir Fulke Greville’s elevation to the peerage. It is unlikely that his somewhat distant ties to Buckingham influenced the election’s outcome, as the favourite did little to advance Leigh’s son around this time. Leigh presumably took his seat in the Commons before the session ended three weeks later, but left no trace in its records.28
Leigh drew up his will on 7 Feb. 1625, confident that he would be ‘made partaker of [Christ’s] most glorious presence and everlasting kingdom’. He requested burial at King’s Newnham with his mother, and left his father £10 for a mourning ring. The disposition of his property was already settled, but he bequeathed £500 each to his younger son and his remaining unmarried daughter. His charitable legacies included £4 for the Warwickshire parish of Church Lawford to buy a new communion chalice, the design of which was to be decided by the incumbent, John Slatter, Leigh’s ‘teacher and confessor’. He died in the following August, predeceasing his father, though it was his son Sir Francis who proved his will on 6 Jan. 1626.29
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Alan Davidson / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to M. Temple.
- 2. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 81; PROB 6/13, f. 24v.
- 3. M. Temple Admiss.
- 4. HEHL, EL1001; Memorials of St. Margaret’s, Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 497.
- 5. Mar. Regs. of St. Dunstan’s, Stepney ed. T. Colyer-Ferguson, i. 105.
- 6. CB, i. 81; C2/Jas.I/L10/71; C142/369/147; A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, ii. 44.
- 7. Ped. Reg. ed. G. Sherwood, i. 322.
- 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 155.
- 9. WARD 7/85/130.
- 10. K. Sharpe, Sir Robert Cotton, 29.
- 11. C181/1, f. 88; 181/2, ff. 19v, 140v, 153.
- 12. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
- 13. C181/2, ff. 89, 142, 199.
- 14. J. Thompson, Hist. Leicester, 344.
- 15. C231/4, f. 51; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 17.
- 16. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 147.
- 17. SP14/67/147.
- 18. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 466, 543.
- 19. VCH Warws. vi. 193-4; C66/1775/55.
- 20. HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 453-4; St. Martin-in-the-Fields (Harl. Soc. Regs. xxv), 27-9; VCH Surr. iii. 473.
- 21. Oxf. Council Acts 1583-1626 ed. H.E. Salter (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxxvii), 142; Collection of Curious Discourses ed. T. Hearne (1775), i. 50-1, 83-4, 276-8.
- 22. CJ, i. 247b, 292a; WARD 7/85/130.
- 23. CJ, i. 324b-5b, 331a, 375a, 378a.
- 24. Ibid. 392a, 416b-17b, 419b, 438b-9b, 440a, 442b.
- 25. J. Nichols, Hist. and Antiqs. of Leics. i. pt. 2, pp. 341, 425. Nichols incorrectly describes Leigh as a master of Requests.
- 26. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 34, 82, 151, 322.
- 27. Ibid. 91, 120, 176, 235, 282, 320, 332, 395.
- 28. WARD 7/85/130; C66/1775/55.
- 29. PROB 11/148, ff. 113-14.